Happy Wednesday everyone! Hope you aren't too sore from yesterday or Monday's workout! I know I'm feeling those RDL's!! (Rommel, you are EVIL! But at least you're an evil genius.) How is everyone else feeling? Besides the soreness, I do feel I'm getting stronger with every workout! 

In other news, can anyone tell me how it is possibly ONLY Wednesday?
It's okay, though, Friday is coming fast and the challenge is definitely keeping me motivated. I'm feeling great (despite a not-so-fun cold) and looking forward to feeling even better. I will admit though, there was something that happened that made me a little more confident in myself, and I'd like to share it with you all.

I assume by now most of us have had our body fat composition tests done by Rommel.  If not, I highly recommend doing it. I actually did NOT feel this way before last Friday. I dreaded the test like I dread doing pull-ups and whenever Rommel reminded me, I found any reason not to do it. Here's how the interactions went:





By time Friday rolled around, I knew I had pretty much run out of excuses. It was time to face the music. Luckily, I consider Rommel not just a boss but a good friend as well, so I felt comfortable and was even able to laugh during the test. It took all of 5 minutes and when it was time to look at the results I had to slowly peek at the computer screen.

Rommel: Okay, your results are ready.
Rommel: No, actually they're -
Rommel: ..they're actually very good!
Casey: Impossible. You have the wrong person. Re-do?
Rommel: You are ridiculous. Look at the chart.
Casey: All I see are lines and lots of colors! Yellow!! Yellow must mean bad!
Rommel: I'm going to lock you in the storage closet. RELAX!
(Note: Okay, he didn't really threaten to lock me in a closet, but I think he may have considered it)

Long story short, my actual results were far different than the ones I had envisioned. I thought my percentage would be much higher than it was, and I was truly surprised at the number I got. If you had asked me, I had a bunch of fat I would easily part with. According to the test, I did not have any "excess" or "unhealthy" fat. 
This really got me thinking. So often we are caught up in how we look in a bathing suit, what size pants we wear, or how much "bigger" we are compared to others, that we hardly have any time to recognize the positive things about our body. I was so caught up into fitting into an old pair of jeans, and getting frustrated when I couldn't, that I completely neglected the fact that my body had already made positive improvements since I began my new routine. My body had gone from doing little exercise and being treated poorly, to doing strenuous exercise on a daily basis and being treated completely differently. And here I was - still thinking so negatively about my healthy body, just because it didn't weight ten pounds less or have a six pack. 
To say the test gave me a new outlook is an understatement. This challenge is not just about eating better, losing weight, and gaining muscle so that we look even more awesome than we do now (although, let's not lie, it's definitely a plus) - it's about treating our bodies the way they deserve to be treated. It's not about changing our habits for two months to reach an ideal weight; it's about making permanent and lasting changes that will benefit our bodies and minds for good.

I think it's time to start giving our bodies a little credit. After all, our mindset is what motivates us during exercise, but our body is what carries us - and that in itself is a blessing. With that being said, here's a Challenge-Friendly Cookie recipe to reward our BEAUTIFUL, hard-working bodies after a workout at Element 5. Enjoy!

Challenge-Friendly Cookies (Post-Workout)

3 Ripe Bananas, mashed
2 cups oats
1/4 cup almond or coconut milk
1 tbsp honey
1/3 cup coconut butter or regular butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, cranberries, coconut, whatever you please!
1 tsp vanilla

1) Pre-heat oven to *325 degrees.
2) Mix all ingredients and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes so oats can soak up milk.
3) Bake for 25 min or more until firm but chewy
4) Enjoy post-workout!

Here is where I got the original recipe & slightly adapted.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Please feel free to share about your body mindset or perhaps just a positive thought you've had during the challenge! I'd love to hear it!

Hey Challengers! How was your weekend? More importantly, how was your cheat meal?! Tell me ALL about it. Seriously, please do, we can all fondly reminisce together.

I wanted to start today's post with a quick word about why I'm doing this challenge. So here it goes:

We all have reasons for being on this challenge and wanting to drop some unwanted pounds. What's my reason? ITALY. Yes, Italy. You see, I lived there for two years - one as a student, another as a tour guide for college students. Sounds terrible, huh? 

Those two years were undoubtedly some of the best in my life. I explored new places, made a ton of new friends, met the love of my life (insert eye roll here), and truly found myself. Unfortunately, I also found about 15 pounds of unwanted weight, thanks to pizza, pasta, gelato, and alcohol. After my time in Italy, I was definitely satisfied with my life, but NOT with my body. It was time for a change.

As soon as I returned to the states, I began circuit training and cut out the majority of gluten and dairy in my diet. I ate mostly natural, unprocessed foods and limited the amount of sugar I took in. Of course, the weight did not fall off immediately, but I saw small achievements every week.  This alone kept me going.

In September 2012, I moved to Washington state with my boyfriend, Greg. The very day I arrived, I jumped out of the car, got changed, and headed to my interview at Element 5 Fitness. I suppose we all can guess how that interview went. 

Working at Element 5 has not only given me a second family, but it has also undoubtedly kept me on track (I mean, who else gets to work out with THE Willie Woods III as a part of their normal work day?!).  Unfortunately, sometimes doing the paperwork takes precedence over doing an actual workout.  The dreariness of winter and the hectic workload of the holidays gave me an immediate excuse to head home right after finishing work, instead of squeezing in a quick sweat session.

That's why, when Make 2013 Your Year came along, it was just the motivation I needed. I'm sure a few of you can relate! I dove head-first into the challenge and I'm so thankful for the fresh breath of air it has given me. I'm happy to be doing this challenge with so many wonderful and motivated people!
Now, on to some delicious Challenge-friendly recipes.
Sundays have become "Food Prep" day for me. I find meal planning is an excellent way to stay on the challenge plan, as well as stick to my budget.  I write down all the ingredients needed and head to the store, determined to walk past the bakery section. I stock up on zucchini, spinach, carrots, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli - you name it. I chop 'em all up when I get home and I'm set for the week. When Sunday evening rolled around, I used some of the veggies for one of my favorite Precision Nutrition side dishes. Here's the recipe:

Sesame Veggies with Feta (Anytime Meal)

1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli or mixed veggies
1/2 cup low-fat Feta cheese
1/4 cup raisins or cranberries
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp honey
* salt and pepper to taste

Steam vegetables for 4-5 minutes or until desired tenderness. Remove from pot and transfer to a mixing bowl. Combine all ingredients with the hot vegetables and toss together until combined. Serves 1 large portion (442 cal) or 2 small portions (221 cal).

We were in the mood for something Italian, and we knew pasta was not going to be an option, so we settled for some Sirloin Meatballs instead. I served them with a sauce we simmered for a few hours (pretty simple, garlic, a can of tomato sauce, and a small can of tomato paste).

Sirloin Meatballs (Anytime Meal)

1lb 7 oz Ground Sirloin or Lean Turkey
1/2 tsp Pepper
Olive Oil Cooking Spray
1tbsp Coconut oil or butter
* I would also recommend adding onion, garlic, or chopped pepper if you like them!

Directions: Season beef with salt and pepper and form into 1 1/2 inch balls. Preheat a large non-stick frying pan on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Saute the meatballs in batches until browned then set aside. Spray pan with oil if needed between batches.

The finished product!
During all this cooking my dog was NOT  happy that he wasn't getting to eat any of the food he was smelling. Although, it might be time to start him on his own diet soon!  

It may not have been a typical Italian meal - but it was good! I hope you guys will give one or both recipes a try! 

That's all for today - my workout is calling! So here's the question I'll leave you with - what made YOU start this challenge? Sounds off in the comments section!

Have a great day!

Anyone else feel like this yet?
I laughed out loud when I saw this because, well, I definitely have that mentality sometimes. For example, when I avoid carbs for dinner, skip my usual glass (or two) of wine, and have one piece of chocolate (instead of six), I wake up the next morning and discover, GASP, my pants aren't falling off from being too big yet? Here's how I look...
My reaction when I realize I haven't shed 20lbs overnight
All kidding aside, sometimes our expectations are slightly unrealistic. The truth is, most people do not typically shed weight in a matter of hours, days, or even weeks. For some of us, losing weight is a very difficult process - both physically and mentally. I think if we gave all of ourselves a little more credit and a little more time, we'd be so much more successful in our journey. Easier said than done, I know. The great thing about this challenge? We have a built-in community of people who can remind us that the lower number on the scale or the loose jeans WILL come, just not overnight. If we stay committed to this challenge, we will all see those results we so greatly desire.

With that being said - here's last night's dinner. It's super easy, super delicious, and completely challenge-approved (if you are following the basic nutrition plan, if you are on Chef Kirsten's plan, I believe you can have this once your initial phase is over).

Healthy Shepherd's Pie

I'm not exactly sure how the Irish would feel about this one, but I thought it was pretty awesome! If you read yesterday's post you'll see I made Precision Nutrition's Coconut Cauliflower Mash.  There was a TON left over, so instead of wasting it or eating the same thing over and over, I mixed it up by making a mock-version of Shepherd's Pie.
I wish I had an elaborate recipe to give you, but I simply sauteed some onions, added frozen peas and carrots, and browned some lean ground beef. I seasoned everything with garlic powder, some chili powder, salt, and pepper. I spread the cauliflower leftovers in a baking dish and topped it with the meat and veggies. I let it bake at 350* for about 30 minutes and it was all done. It's a very simple recipe and it would only take a bit longer if you have to prepare the cauliflower mash ahead of time (this might take  10 - 15 minutes).  If you're looking for a more detailed recipe, check this one out.

The best part of this recipe? LEFTOVERS. LOTS AND LOTS OF LEFTOVERS.

I hope you guys are doing well and staying motivated! I hear so many of you speaking so positively in the gym and on our Facebook group and it is truly wonderful to hear! Our community will definitely improve our outlook on this challenge and every milestone we make as individuals is a milestone for the entire group!

So, what did you guys have for dinner last night?

- Casey
Good afternoon Challengers! How is everyone doing? If you're anything like my dogs, you wish it was Saturday already:
Anyway, besides showing you how lazy my dogs are, I thought I would show you what I ate for dinner yesterday to maybe give you a better idea of what a typical challenge meal might look like. 

Let's be honest, starting a new diet is NOT easy. Especially when you've likely indulged in some delicious goodies over the holidays. And by "some", I really mean eating your weight in your favorite Christmas cookies. Or maybe that was just me ;)

Regardless, the holidays are over and it's time for us to get back on track and renew our commitment to fitness and health. The crazy part? It might not be so bad. With the wonderful support from the Element 5 community, the awesome recipes available to you via Chef Kirsten or Precision Nutrition, and of course, Rommel's fountain of knowledge, I think we might just have a great time during this challenge! 

Yesterday I had a pretty good day in terms of eating! Here's a breakdown of my day:
BREAKFAST: 2-egg Omelet with chopped zucchini, spinach, and red peppers.
LUNCH: Spinach salad with mixed veggies and grilled chicken
SNACK: Greek yogurt with 1/2 small apple, chopped (this was post workout).

Then came dinner - my favorite! I browsed through the Precision Nutrition recipes and the following menu caught my eye: Sirloin Burgers paired with Cauliflower Coconut Mash. The best part about this meal is that you can eat it at anytime - no matter if you were able to workout that day or not. Plus, it's delicious! Even if you're not a huge fan of cauliflower, I highly recommend giving it a try. Many clients have told us even their kids love this (or a similar) recipe!  Here are the recipes:

Sirloin Burger (Anytime Meal)

Serves: Serves 1 large or 2 small.

Ground sirloin or extra lean ground beef (170 g) 6 oz
Salt 2 pinches
Pepper 1 pinch
Chili powder 1 pinch
Fresh garlic (minced) 1 tsp
Onion (finely chopped) 2 tbsp
Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp
Olive oil cooking spray

Instructions: Preheat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Combine all ingredients except cooking spray together in a mixing bowl and stir until completely combined. Form into a round shape about ¾ inch thick. Lightly coat pan with spray and place the sirloin burger into the pan. Cook the burger until lightly browned and then gently flip and brown the other side. Cook all the way through and serve. Serves 1 large or 2 small.

Coconut Cauliflower Mash (Anytime Meal)

Serves: 1 large or 2 small.

Ingredients (for Coconut Cauliflower Mash)
Cauliflower (rough chopped) 3 cups
Cashews (crushed) ¼ cup
Coconut milk ¼ cup
Salt 1 pinch
Pepper 1 pinch
Cinnamon 1 pinch
Add all the ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 15 minutes and then remove from heat. Purée in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time if necessary to get the mixture moving. Serves 1 large or 2 small.

I think the best part was my workout at Element 5 Fitness this afternoon. With each dumbbell press and torturous RDL, I got more confident in knowing I was doing something great for myself. Even if Drew and Rommel were nearby lifting a million times more than me, I was content in pushing myself to my own limit, and enjoying the (slight smelly) company. Just kidding, Drew, you don't smell THAT bad.

Overall, a pretty successful day! Although, I'm not going to lie, I would KILL for a glass of wine or some ice cream. Luckily, the support I see from the group and the inspiration from Rommel's words of wisdom has me seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. 

I'll be checking in again soon! Please sound off in the comments section - let's get some discussion going! What was your hardest part about today? What was your favorite part?